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Illegal smokestack emissions a public hazard

As many as 142 members of the faculty and students of two schools in Kaohsiung County (merged with Kaohsiung City to form a single special municipality on December 25, 2010) were rushed to the hospital for treatment after inhaling unknown smokestack emissions from a factory nearby. The Control Yuan launched an investigation and found negligence by the competent authorities in failing to locate the source of the pollution and its laggard attitude about the emergency response. (Case no. 0980800005)

In December 2008, a total of five incidents of mysterious emissions were reported in a span of one month. In light of the Control Yuan’s investigation, a number of government offices and public institutions were found to be at fault: the Kaohsiung County Government’s (now Kaohsiung City Government, hereinafter “County Government”) failure to conduct regular inspections and provide guidance, and the Kaohsiung County Environmental Protection Bureau’s (now Kaohsiung City Environmental Protection Bureau, hereinafter “Bureau”) inability to respond in time, delayed rescue efforts and ill-equipped rescue teams, the schools’ failure to conduct regular drill exercises, devise contingency plans and find shelters, and the local industrial service center’s inability to report and respond to crises.

Following the Control Yuan’s investigation, the then-County Government established new regulations and standard procedures for emergency evacuation and specified students and faculties of local schools, along with local residents, as persons to be protected. The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has made multiple improvements, including enhancing its capacity to detect air pollution, identifying areas around the air quality monitoring station that are prone to pollution, and establishing two to four stations equipped with an “extremely high-concentration automatic sampling system.” In 2009, the EPA set up regulations for building an industrial air pollution database, definition and located the so-called sensitive receivers and launched a map enquiry system. In addition, the EPA conducted inspections on five high-risk industrial areas, mapped out the means and route of pollution, provided a risk typology for receivers, devised a standard operating procedure for handling public hazards to be implemented by local competent authorities, and issued standard operating procedures for responding to air pollution incidents. The EPA also revised the guidelines for handling public hazards and drew up supplementary regulations.